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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Effects of tillage and liming on macropore networks derived from X-ray tomography images of a silty clay soil

Hellner, Q.; Koestel, J.; Ulen, B.; Larsbo, M.


Soil structure influences water infiltration, aeration and root growth and, thereby, also the conditions for sustainable crop production. Our objective was to quantify the effects of different soil management methods and land uses on the topsoil structure of a silty clay soil. We sampled 32 intact soil columns (18 cm high, 12.7 cm diameter) from an experimental silty clay field with four treatments: conventional tillage (CT), conventional tillage followed by liming (CTL), reduced tillage (RT) and unfertilized fallow (UF). The columns were analysed using 3-D X-ray tomography. The samples were taken in autumn after harvest, 7 yr after quick lime was applied to the CTL plots. Despite a relatively large number of replicates per treatment (8, 8, 8 and 6 (two UF samples were excluded), respectively), there were no significant differences between any of the investigated macropore network properties related to tilled treatments. The UF treatment, in contrast, exhibited more vertically oriented macropores, which were also better connected compared to the other treatments. This confirms previous findings that tillage may disrupt the vertical continuity of macropore clusters. The impact of liming on soil pore network properties may have been limited to pores smaller than the resolution in our X-ray images. It is also possible that the effects of lime on soil structure were limited to a few years which means that any effect would have diminished by the time of this study. These matters should be further investigated in follow-up studies to understand better the potential of lime amendments to clay soil.


Soil structure; management practices; macropore continuity

Published in

Soil Use and Management
2018, Volume: 34, number: 2, pages: 197-205